Men's sprint relay quartet looking for pre-SEA Games boost
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?
That seems to be the unwanted tag that the men's national 4x100m relay team have had to live with, after finishing second at three consecutive South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
In Laos in 2009, the team finished 0.52 seconds behind Thailand's winning quartet, who clocked 39.34sec.
Two years later, in Indonesia, a photo finish was needed to separate them and the host nation, with both relay teams clocking 39.91.
And in Myanmar in 2013, the Republic's sprinters finished behind Thailand again, this time just 0.04 off.
Needless to say, the target ahead of the 2015 SEA Games on home soil from June 5-16, is to finally bag that elusive gold.
And a strong showing at the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships this weekend at the National Stadium, will be a huge boost to the local sprinters' confidence as they fine-tune their preparations for the biennial Games.
Calvin Kang, who was part of the 2011 and 2013 silver-medal winning teams, said: "We're two months shy of the SEA Games, and the timing of the Singapore Open is good.
"If we do well, then it will be great for our confidence. If we don't, we know we still have some time to improve.
"The most important thing tomorrow is to focus."
The team were handled by Melvin Tan in 2009, 2011 and 2013, but the 47-year-old coach decided to step down after the 2013 SEA Games to give the squad a fresh start.
Portuguese coach Luis Cunha, who was appointed as national sprints coach last December, will guide the team in June.
"The biggest difference this time round is that we have a new coach in Luis," said Kang.
"And, to be honest, we haven't done much relay work yet, but we've been working on our individual speed."
The 24-year-old Singapore Sports School alumni added that the relay team's strength lies in their baton exchanges, and said the approach could pay dividends in June.
"Look at Jamaica, they're not the best passers around but, because they're just so fast individually, they are the best relay team in the world," he said.
Indeed, Cunha, 49, is firmly focused on how his sprinters do individually.
So he is not setting them a target to impress in the 4x100m final this evening, even though the sprinters can consider themselves slight favourites, with Thailand absent from the meet.
Indonesia, led by 2013 SEA Games men's individual 100m silver medallist Iswandi, will take part in the relay.
Said Cunha: "For now, the most important thing is for our runners to compete well in the individual events.
"Once they do that, we'll start working more on the relay and passing.
"They already know each other well from the last four or five years, so I hope this can help them get good results in the relay at the SEA Games."
The former Olympian added that he would decide on the six names (four runners and two reserves) for the 4x100m team, after this weekend.
Cunha also added that he had learnt a lot about the Republic's top sprinters in a two-week training stint in Australia - during which Dipna Lim-Prasad set a new national women's 400m hurdles record - but reiterated that he would not set any target for any of them this weekend.
"I don't have a crystal ball that will tell me what will happen this weekend," he joked.
"But I can tell you everyone is motivated, not only because it is their last chance to qualify for the SEA Games, but also because this is their first time competing at the Sports Hub.
"My wish is they perform well individually, and give me problems for my selection of the relay team. I believe they can do it."
*Admission to the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships is free. Visit singaporeathletics.sg or on Singapore Athletics' Facebook page for more information on the meet.
We’re two months shy of the SEA Games, and the timing of the Singapore Open is good. If we do well, then it will be great for our confidence. If we don’t, we know we still have some time to improve. The most important thing tomorrow is to focus.
— National sprinter Calvin Kang
National Stadium's speedy transformation to 'athletics mode'
TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
Just three weeks after hosting the biggest boyband in the world, the National Stadium will now see over 300 athletes from Singapore and around the region compete at the 77th Singapore Open Track and Field Championships this weekend.
UK boyband One Direction's concert on March 11 was attended by 33,000 screaming fans and, although a much smaller crowd is expected at the two-day athletics meet, the Sports Hub's (above) speedy transformation has been remarkable.
"By mid-March, the Sports Hub already got the stadium in 'athletics mode', well within the time we expected," said Singapore Athletics general manager Yazeen Buhari yesterday.
"Since then, our Team Singapore athletes have been able to have three full training sessions at the venue."
The main difference of the stadium in "athletics mode" is that the retractable seats are moved all the way back, revealing the full width of the top-grade Mondo track as well other track and field facilities like the long jump sand pit.
Yazeen said that officials from Hong Kong, who conducted a technical delegates' inspection of the stadium yesterday morning, were hugely impressed with the facility, and added that the Singapore Open was timely as a test event ahead of June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
When The New Paper paid a visit yesterday evening, Belgian photo-finish specialists TimeTronics were busy setting up and testing their equipment, which will also be used at the SEA Games.
Former national sprinter Hamkah Afiq, who won a silver medal in the 200m event the last time Singapore hosted the SEA Games in 1993, was busy going through the motions as a pundit at the finish line, a role which he will also take on in June.
Said Yazeen: "All things considered, it'll be a new experience for our athletes. You can really tell some of them are really pumped up."
Four things to look out for
1 Can Shanti Pereira break the 12-sec barrier again?
The national 100m and 200m women's record holder is Singapore's biggest medal hope in the two sprint events. But since rewriting the 100m national mark with an 11.89 effort in 2013, the 18-year-old has struggled to clock similar times in the last six months. Her best time this year is 12.09 clocked in January.
But a good timing - and a gold medal today - would certainly be a fillip to her hopes of winning Singapore's first SEA Games medal in the women's sprints since 1973.
WHAT: Women's 100m final
WHEN: Today, from 2.45pm
2 Who will contest the men's 100m in June?
At the moment, Amirudin Jamal is the only Singaporean who has met the 10.55sec mark to qualify for the 100m event at June's SEA Games.
But he knows he cannot take the spot for granted. The likes of Gary Yeo, Calvin Kang, Elfi Mustapa and, even teenage upstart Naqib Asmin, 19, are also hoping to be among the two qualifiers.
The presence of Indonesia's Iswandi - the 2013 SEA Games silver medallist - adds further spice to the Singapore Open.
WHAT: Men's 100m final
WHEN: Today, from 2.45pm
3 Will vaulters leap to greater heights?
Pole vaulter Sean Lim became the first Singaporean to clear five metres last March, and his mark of 5.01m is still the national best.
Injury and university studies have hampered his preparations but Lim, 21, is targeting to clear 5m.
Women's record holder Rachel Yang, who bettered her own mark of 3.82m by 1cm last week, is hoping to shine at the new stadium.
WHAT: Pole vault final
WHEN: Tomorrow, 9am (women's) and 2pm (men's)
4 Can Dipna go from strength to strength?
Dipna Lim-Prasad rewrote her own national record in the 400m hurdles in Australia last month, shaving 0.10sec off her previous best which helped her win bronze at the 2013 SEA Games.
On a quality Mondo track at the Sports Hub and, with her rivals Wassana Winatho (Thailand) and Quach Thi Lan (Vietnam), who finished ahead of her in 2013, not taking part, the 23-year-old Lim-Prasad can consider herself a favourite at the Singapore Open.
WHAT: Women's 400m hurdles final
WHEN: Tomorrow, from 9.30am.